UN tech agency passes resolution adopting global flight tracking

The recent ITU (International Telecommunications Union) membership meeting in Busan, South Korea has passed an important resolution to improve global flight tracking for civil aviation.

Photo credit: ITU

Photo credit: ITU

This follows the disappearance and loss of Flight MH370 in March 2014 with 239 people on board, which spurred worldwide discussions on global flight tracking and the need for coordinated action by ITU and other relevant organizations.

The new resolution adopted by the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference instructs the forthcoming World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015 (WRC-15) to consider global flight tracking in its agenda and instructs the director of ITU’s Radiocommunication Bureau to submit a specific report on the matter to WRC-15.

The report will include the results of the studies, which have been carried out in the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) for the last two years and are being accelerated as a result of this resolution.

ITU-R Working Party 5B (in charge of aeronautical-related issues) is currently meeting in Geneva and working on the same topic.

Outgoing ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Touré welcomed the resolution taken by the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, noting global concern following the loss of the aircraft.

“We join the families of the passengers in mourning the loss of lives on MH370 and we must continue to make every effort at the international level to improve flight tracking for civil aviation,” Touré said.

“This resolution will be brought to the attention of the World Radiocommunication Conference at its next meeting in 2015 as well as to the International Civil Aviation Organization, with whom we already have a strong framework of cooperation.”

Following a call in March 2014 to ITU from the Minister of Communications and Multimedia of Malaysia, Ahmad Shabery Cheek, for an international effort to find solutions to track commercial aircraft in real time, industry leaders and experts from the aviation and information and communication technology (ICT) sectors, representatives of international organizations, governments and trade associations met in Kuala Lumpur in May 2014 to explore global initiatives and current and future technological developments that could provide such solutions.

In its special meeting on global flight tracking, which took place in Montréal on May 12 to 13, 2014, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) encouraged ITU to take urgent action to provide the necessary spectrum allocations for satellites to support emerging aviation needs.

ITU and ICAO have a long history of collaboration and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding in 2012 to establish a framework for enhanced cooperation.

ICAO has developed Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for systems that enable position determination and tracking of aircraft for air traffic control, which represents a critical element of aviation safety and security.

As a complement to the abovementioned efforts, in June 2014, ITU also established a Focus Group under the umbrella of the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) on Aviation Applications of Cloud Computing for Flight Data Monitoring.

The group will study the requirements for telecommunication standards to enable an ‘aviation cloud’ for real-time monitoring of flight data, including those for the protection, security and ownership of flight data and the technical mechanisms and policies to govern access to these data.

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